Brock Holt wants to stick with Red Sox
DETROIT — Brock Holt does not dare to dream about a long-term contract with the Red Sox or seeing his name on the back of a T-shirt for sale at Fenway Park.
He thinks more about renting a one-bedroom apartment in Boston, maybe something within walking distance of Fenway Park. A place with enough room for him and his wife, Lakyn, and their new puppy, a rambunctious chocolate Lab named Tank.
An apartment would signify that Holt is playing well enough not to worry about being sent back down to Triple A Pawtucket. For now, that would be progress.
“A place would be nice,” he said. “We stay in a hotel now when the team is home. My wife, she goes back to our place in Pawtucket when we’re on the road. It’s not the most convenient thing but it works out.”
His statistics would suggest at least considering a lease. Holt is hitting .317 with an .816 OPS in 25 games for the Red Sox with 11 extra-base hits and 13 RBIs. In what has been an otherwise dreary season for the defending World Series champions, Holt has been a pleasant discovery.
“The guy can play,” teammate Dustin Pedroia said. “He’s given us a lift when we needed one and opened a lot of eyes around here.”
But nothing is certain for Holt, who turns 26 next week. Once a second baseman, Holt now comes to the park and wonders what position he will be playing. He chooses to look at the situation as a challenge.
“Adding a new position is new to me. But changing positions is something I’ve always done,” Holt said. “I used to go back and forth between second and shortstop. Then I added third base last year and now first base. At first I was wondering what that all meant. But now I realize it means they want me to play.”
The next move could be to left field. The Red Sox spoke to Holt last week about taking fly balls in batting practice to further increase his versatility.
Holt was recalled from Pawtucket May 17 when Will Middlebrooks fractured his right index finger. He started 14 consecutive games at third base until shortstop Stephen Drew rejoined the Sox.
Drew’s return moved Xander Bogaerts to third base and with one day of preparation, Holt moved to first base and has started the last four games there.
“I can’t say I ever envisioned myself playing first base in the major leagues,” said Holt, who borrowed a glove from teammate Alex Hassan. “I’m not really what you think about in terms of a first baseman. But it’s kind of fun.”
Through it all, Holt has hit .308 as the leadoff hitter with nine RBIs and 10 extra-base hits, one his first career home run. His .337 on-base percentage in those 18 games is far from ideal for a leadoff hitter but represents the best option the Red Sox have.
Holt was 1 for 6 in Wednesday’s 7-4 loss at Cleveland, a 12-inning game that ended just after 2 a.m. The hit was a two-run single in the seventh that tied the game.
With Mike Napoli set to come off the disabled list on Sunday, Holt will be fresh out of positions to play. The solution could be left field.
The lefthanded-hitting Holt represents a chance for the Red Sox to improve their anemic outfield production, either as the full-time left fielder or in a platoon with Jonny Gomes.
Sox outfielders have a .611 OPS, the lowest in the American League. Holt may misplay a few balls as he learns the position, but the Sox can’t take one of the best bats out of a lineup that is 11th in the AL in scoring.
“I’ll do whatever they ask me to do,” Holt said. “I’ve never really played the outfield but I’m sure I could. I’ve come too far in this to worry about that sort of thing.”
Holt grew in Stephenville, a small town in central Texas so crazy about football that there’s a sign reminding visitors that NFL quarterback Kevin Kolb grew up there.
Holt played freshman football before coming to the understanding that he was too small to continue in that sport.
“I hung up my football spikes pretty early,” Holt said. “I liked football a lot but I was better in baseball and I knew I was never going to make anything out of football.”
Holt was a star at Stephenville High but attended Navarro Junior College. At 5 feet 8 inches and 150 pounds, Division 1 recruiters were not chasing him down.
“Not many baseball players come out of Stephenville,” said Holt, now 185 pounds. “It made sense for me to go to junior college first.”
Navarro has produced 10 major leaguers over the years, including Orioles star Chris Davis. Holt flourished there and earned a scholarship to Rice.
The Pirates selected him in the ninth round of the 2009 draft and Holt made it to the majors at the end of the 2012 season. He met Lakyn along the way while playing minor league ball in Pennsylvania.
“We liked him as a second baseman,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said during spring training. “He came through our system pretty quickly. It’s tough to say what was going to happen but he was going to get a chance with us.”
That all changed when Holt picked up his phone just before Christmas in 2012 and listened to a voice mail from Pirates general manager Neil Huntington.
“He said I had to call him, and I knew I had been traded,” Holt said.
The Red Sox sent four players to Pittsburgh to get closer Joel Hanrahan. Holt was a throw-in, a player plucked off a list presented to the Red Sox to balance out the deal a bit.
“At first I was kind of like, ‘shoot,’ because I thought I was doing well with the Pirates,” Holt said. “The Red Sox had Dustin at second base and I played second base.”
Sox manager John Farrell called Holt a few days later and laid out a vision for him.
“All the information we had on him, was in addition to a very consistent performance track record, was a guy who understood the game, a good competitor,” Farrell said. “We felt there was the ability to move around and play other positions.”
Holt had three stints with the Red Sox and got in 26 games. He hit .203 and was not on the postseason roster. He also learned a lesson about job security in mid-August.
His parents, Joel and GayLynn, traveled from Stephenville for a series at Fenway Park along with then-fiancée Lakyn, his high school coach, and some other friends.
“I love when people come, but to be honest it was nerve-racking,” Holt said. “I was worried about getting sent down every day, and that’s what happened. They were there for one game and I got sent down.”
Holt packed up and joined Pawtucket on the road as his parents, fiancée, and friends stuck around Boston and did some sightseeing.
“I’ve learned to take it day by day and have fun,” Holt said. “I have no expectations. These last few weeks have been fun, but I want it to be more than that. The goal is to help this team all season.”